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Air show lobbyists to buzz Capitol Hill

Sequestration's grounding of military plane demonstrations source of agitation

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A trade group for air shows — stung in recently weeks by sequestration's grounding of military aircraft demonstrations — is launching a government affairs offensive.

Lobbying firm Van Scoyoc Associates is now representing the International Council of Air Shows, Inc., lobbying on "air shows regarding sequestration related issues," according to a U.S. Senate document filed today. It marks the first time the International Council of Air Shows has ever hired federal lobbyists.

Jennifer Cave, a former legislative aide to ex-Sen. John Warner, R-Va., is one of two lobbyists handing the account, the filing indicates. Cave also has worked as a special assistant to the National Security Council and Senate Armed Services Committee.

Michael W. Schupp will also lobby on the International Council of Air Shows's behalf.

The move to hire lobbyists is necessary because the freeze on military aircraft demonstrations, such as those conducted by the Air Force's Thunderbirds and Navy's Blue Angels, "represents a threat to our existence as an industry," said John Cudahy, the council's president.

"Dozens, maybe hundreds, of air shows across the country will go out of business if this continues," Cudahy told the Center for Public Integrity. "Some areas have had 10, 15 or 20 percent cuts they've had to deal with. We've seen a 100 percent cut in the support the U.S. military can provide air shows."

Cudahy argues that air shows generate up to $1.5 billion in business annually and are often the public's only up-close link to the military equipment its tax dollars fund. Several dozen air shows — of the roughly 350 that typically take place — have already been canceled this year, he added.

"It's never been necessary for us to hire a lobbyist. It's a pretty mom-and-apple-pie industry," Cudahy said. "But we have to do this now."

Van Scoyoc Associates is being retained on a month-to-month contract, Cudahy added.

In a message to members this month on its website, the Council also urged supporters to individually advocate for air shows whenever possible.

"Tell the public about all of the aerial entertainment that will be available at your event. Emphasize your dates, location and website URL," the message stated.

It continued: "Even if your show never expected to receive military support, turn the media’s current interest in air shows into an opportunity to raise awareness about your event in your community. In 'normal' circumstances, you would welcome coverage and exposure many weeks before your event, so be sure to take full advantage of that publicity in these not-so-normal times."